11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
June 13, 2021
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.






O God, strength of those who hope in you,
graciously hear our pleas,
and, since without you mortal frailty can do nothing,
grant us always the help of your grace,
that in following your commands
we may please you by our resolve and our deeds.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading  EZ 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

Responsorial Psalm PS 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

R/. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
and your faithfulness throughout the night.

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

Second Reading 2 COR 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him, 
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.


Gospel MK 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Reflection Questions

  1. What recompense might you expect from the Lord?
  2. How are you walking by faith and not by sight at this time?
  3. Are you content “knowing not how” the kingdom of God grows among us?

 Catena Nova

The grain of mustard seed is the Lord, who by faith is sown spiritually in the hearts of those who accept Him. Whoever diligently cultivates the seed, by practising the virtues, moves the mountain of earthbound pride and, through the power thus gained, expels the obdurate habit of sin. In this way, the activity of the principles and qualities, or divine powers, present in the commandments, is revived as though they were birds. … Those who seek the Lord should not look for Him outside themselves. On the contrary, they must seek Him, within themselves, through faith made manifest in action (St. Maximus the Confessor).

The mustard seed is small in size but it holds an explosive force; although it is sown in a small hole, it produces great branches, and when it is grown birds can nest there. In the same way faith produces great effects in the soul instantaneously. Enlightened by faith, the soul pictures God and sees him as clearly as any soul can. It circles the earth; even before the end of this world it sees the judgement and the conferring of promised rewards. So may you have the faith which depends on you and is directed to God, that you may receive from him that faith too which transcends human capacity (St. Cyril of Jerusalem).

Let us not be too easily disappointed by our Lord's words. If we remember that “God's weakness is stronger than human strength, and God's foolishness wiser than human wisdom,” we shall find that this smallest seed of God's creation is greater than the whole wide world. It is up to us to sow this mustard seed in our minds and let it grow within us into a great tree of understanding reaching up to heaven and elevating all our faculties; then it will spread out branches of knowledge, the pungent savor of its fruit will make our mouths burn, its fiery kernel will kindle a blaze within us inflaming our hearts, and the taste of it will dispel our unenlightened repugnance. Yes, it is true: a mustard seed is indeed an image of the kingdom of God (St. Peter Chrysologus).

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian, but its growth entirely depends on the care we take to nourish it.  If neglected, it will die (Bl. Catherine McAuley).

We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives, so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt, that peace and abundance may manifest for all (Dorothy Day).

Throughout the history of the living, the origins of anything new have always been small, practically invisible and easily overlooked.   The Lord Himself has told us that “heaven” in this world is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds (Matthew 13:31-32), yet contained within it are the infinite potentialities of God.  In terms of world history, Jesus’ Resurrection is improbable; it is the smallest mustard seed of history. This reversal of proportions is one of God’s mysteries. The great – the mighty – is ultimately the small.  And the tiny mustard seed is something truly great (Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI).

In the language of the Gospel, the seed is the symbol of the Word of God, whose fruitfulness is recalled in this parable.   The Word of God makes things grow, it gives life. …Because this is the power that makes the life of the Kingdom of God sprout within us.   And thus is the Kingdom of God, a humanly small and seemingly irrelevant reality.   To become a part of it, one must be poor of heart, not trusting in their own abilities but in the power of the love of God;  not acting to be important in the eyes of the world but precious in the eyes of God, who prefers the simple and the humble.   When we live like this, the strength of Christ bursts through us and transforms what is small and modest into a reality, that leavens the entire mass of the world and of history.   This opens us up to trust and hope, despite the tragedies, the injustices, the sufferings that we encounter.   The seed of goodness and peace sprouts and develops, because the merciful love of God makes it ripen  (Pope Francis).



The Secret of Our Success

            What Would It Mean for the Church to Succeed? That’s the title of a recent article by Jean-Luc Marion at the Church Life Journal (June 1, 2021).  As churches across the country reopen and the Sunday “obligation” is restored, you can be sure clergy are very anxious about who will – and who will not – return.  A rather optimistic article, Attendance is on the rise at parishes in Rochester Diocese, appeared the same day in the Catholic Courier.  Despite some rosy statements from a few priests whose attendance has improved considerably over the last months, the article contained what I would consider some very alarming statistics made public by the diocese’s pastoral services department.  They noted that, despite the increases -- and if my math is correct – there has been an almost 40% decline in Mass attendance from pre-pandemic levels.  Worse than that is how those levels showed at the time around a 14% attendance rate overall.  That now stands at a little more than a 5%  -- assuming the diocese’s website is accurate in claiming there are 300,000 Catholics in its 12-county territory.  Hardly the largest of plants (G)!

            All this got me to thinking about how, say, over the last half-century, the diocese has closed numerous parishes, seen a precipitous decline in the number of active priests, seen two colleges abandon their Catholic status, its only Catholic hospital close, and the near extinction of its two main religious orders of women.  By any conventional measure of success, the local church is a dismal failure.  And it’s hardly alone – truth be told it’s as bad or worse most everywhere else in the country.  But is this any reason to lament?

            Not if the parables of the sower and of the mustard seed shed light on the situation.  After all, the latter is a symbol of the kingdom of God – of which the church is, after all, but the sign (and often enough, a confusing one at that and more than capable of sowing weeds).  And while it might be nice if the church were more like a majestic cedar (I), all kinds of dangers accompany such stature, not the least of which is confusing earthly kingdoms with God’s.

            While the sower who knows not how (G) seed germinates, sprouts, and grows warns us about trying to understand the ways the Kingdom advances (which might well be happening at a quicker pace and with more “success” outside the precincts of the church as within it).  So Marion asks some pertinent questions about the present situation:

Are we first and foremost the ones in charge of the salvation of the Church, of its growth, its power, its efficaciousness, its improvement? Does not Christ himself take care of that? Of course, he does so by asking each one of us to reform ourselves, that is to say, to convert to the life of the Spirit. And of course, he promised his Church that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. But he never guaranteed it would become a majority, or dominant in the world: he only asked it to pass through the same experience of the cross by which he gained the Resurrection.

            Which is why the numbers game can be so dangerous when it comes to measuring “success.”  It’s an old game.  Pastors love to report to the bishop the number of sacramental rites that have been performed in their parish; how many souls inhabit the parish boundaries, the number of kids who might be in its school, and of course the size of the collection and the quota for the diocesan appeal.  Yet, it’s still a game.  And these days often enough a shell game since statistics often hide the reality of the church on the ground.  I have attended one too many sacramental charade (and presided at them) to believe numbers tell much truth.  For example, among this year’s ever-dwindling number of first communicants, how long will it be before they make their second Holy Communion?  Or how many of this year’s confirmands will be found at Mass the following Sunday?  But it’s all dutifully recorded in the parish registers and ultimately bishops will report these “successes” to the Vatican which publishes its own annual statistics.  Last count there were 1.34 billion Catholics in the world.  What was it Mark Twain said about statistics?

            Now more to the point is Paul who reminds us we walk by faith and not by sight (II).  So we really can’t tell all that much by looking – or counting.  So much of what we call “church” happens out of sight much like that seed which grows unawares and of its own accord (G).  And so for the church to be successful Marion concludes     it

 does not have to claim to be healthy and strong in order to succeed in doing so, precisely composed as it is of the weak and the sick, but with weakness and sickness in which grace abounds. For to whom can grace be given superabundantly, if not to those who know that they lack it?


Intercessions (Peter Scagnelli; Prayer for Sundays and Seasons)

Walking by faith, not by sight, let us pray with confidence to God whose kingdom grows among us.

For the church in all its communities, great and small: May its harvest increase and its branches be large enough to shelter all.

For prosperous nations who have resources in abundance: May they mirror the generosity of God by offering a portion of their wealth and a ready welcome to the needy.

For those who sow the seed and nurture the fruits of the earth: May God provide a bountiful harvest for all to share.

For the oppressed who hunger for recognition of their human dignity: May God lift high the lowly and make justice flourish.

For missionaries who sow the seed of God’s kingdom in faraway lands: May their preaching and example cultivate the fruits of faith, hope and love.

For those who teach the young, feed the hungry or comfort the afflicted: May God plant the kingdom among us through these varied ministries.

For those whom sickness keeps at home or for whom travel has been taken away: May God grant health and safety to all who are absent from us.

For all of us called to be part of the kingdom: May we persevere in prayer and work, trusting the God who brings great things from small beginnings.

For those who are now at home with the Lord: May they find mercy before the judgment seat of Christ and receive the reward of their goodness.

O God, at whose bidding the seed will sprout and the shoot grow toward full stature, hear the prayer of your assembled people. Make us trust in your hidden ways, that we may pray with confidence  and wait for your kingdom now growing in our midst. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. (ICEL; 1998).



From the highest crest of cedar

God will tear a tender shoot

And upon the heights of Zion

There will cause it to take root;

Branching forth, a tree resplendent,

Showing forth the mighty pow’r

God has made know to creation,

Bearing fruit, with sap and flow’r.


Jesus’ teaching of the Kingdom

Told of sower in the field,

Scatt’ring seed on earth most fertile,

Waiting for its harvest-yield;

Like the mustard seed, so tiny,

Which becomes and ample tree,

So our faith; though small or timid,

With God’s grace grows mightily.


We, while living in the body,

Walk by faith and not by sight,

Strive to live a life that pleases

God, one lived in heaven’s light.

Knowing that our lives are sifted

When before the Lord we stand,

Let us follow Christ in justice,

Led by Jesus’ loving hand.

Lord’s Prayer

With longing for the kingdom of God, let us pray as Jesus taught....

Spiritual Communion (Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee)

In union, blessed Jesus, with the faithful gathered at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are offered this day, and remembering particularly my own community and those worshipping there, I long to offer you praise and thanksgiving, for creation and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption won for us by your life, death, and resurrection, for the means of grace and the hope of glory.  I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and, since I cannot at this time receive communion, I pray you to come into my heart, my soul, and my mind. Let nothing separate me from you; let me serve you in this life until, by your grace, I come to your glorious kingdom and unending peace. Amen. 


Closing Hymn (Marty Haugen)


We walk by faith and not by sight:
No gracious words we hear
Of him who spoke as none e’er spoke,
But we believe him near.

We may not touch his hands and side,
Nor follow where he trod;
Yet in his promise we rejoice,
And cry, “My Lord and God!”

Help then, O Lord, our unbelief,
And may our faith abound;
To call on you when you are near,
And seek where you are found:

That when our life of faith is done
In realms of clearer light
We may behold you as you are
In full and endless sight.